Einarr shifted and fidgeted in his bed, struggling to sleep. The events of the day played over and over in his mind, leaving him with a subtle, nagging sense of dread. As a boy, his father’s raven keeper had told him that being sleeplessness was caused by the mind by being unable to rest and that the cure was activity, working the mind till sleep came easily. He rose from the bed and fetched his armour from the chair in the corner of the room. Laying the mail out on the desk, he fetched his kit from his pack. He began the tedious work, scrubbing the links with a stiff boar hair brush by candlelight.
Still his mind kept wandering back to the things he had seen. First, his dream. He remembered the vision as vividly, as though it were a forgotten memory returned. He had stood looking from a high tower, watching whilst the land burned at his command. Women and children died at his command. The people had turned against him and he crushed them without remorse. A simple nightmare, brought on by the strange events of the last few days? A symptom of his unacknowledged fear that he would likely never see his home again? He did not know. Then he remembered the graveyard. Seeing his own name carved into tombstone had shaken him, more than he cared to admit. Buried in a shallow grave as a criminal, rather than burnt atop a pyre whilst his deeds were recounted and his kinsmen wept. What manner of evil could cause such a thing? The events on their own count be discounted, easily dismissed as simple tricks of this bewitched land. But the two together? This painted an sinister picture of a future he cared not to ponder. As he began prepping the thick and pungent grease, rendered from seal blubber, to oil the mail, he remembered something his father had told him many years ago.
“To rule is a heavy burden” he had said.
“A lord must be a beacon to his people, a rock on which they can depend, a shield to protect against the winds of fate. The wise king realises that he is placed upon the throne to serve the people, not for them to serve him. The law says a subject should honour and obey his lord and yet, if the lord is not fit or shames his title with cruelty or neglect, the people are duty bound by the oldest laws to remove him and pass the mantle to one more fitting”.
“Crowns slip easily from heads unworthy”
With these words, a sense of clarity washed over him. The people of this land were owed justice. They were denied the basic rights of shelter, security and happiness. The devil Strahd treated them as cattle and not as his flock. This would not stand. He would see to it, omens be dammed. His comrades too, they were lost and far from home. Thought they were not his subjects, he knew he had to show them that all was not lost. That they were not forsaken and that hope should burn bright in their hearts. His deeds would bolster them against the darkness.
The dread left and purpose filled him. With it came weariness, his eyelids suddenly heavy. He looked down at the grubby armour and sighed. He wanted nothing more than to sleep, but the job was less than half done. It wouldn’t do to leave it unfinished.
He lit a fresh candle and set about his task